Jack Nicklaus has called for the golf industry to seize current global opportunities and for changes to be made to the game to help bring more people back to the course.
Speaking at the 2016 HSBC Golf Business Forum at the Marriott Sawgrass Resort and Spa in Florida, US, Nicklaus pointed to golf’s inclusion in the Olympics earlier this year and maiden winners of all four majors in the men’s game as being good for the game and helping to promote golf on a greater global scale.
“Because of the Olympics, and with medals won by six different countries, the game of golf has been introduced and showcased to a lot of people,” he said. “We have more than 35 golf federations around the world today than we had before golf returned to the Olympics. It was especially important to many parts of the world where golf is not predominantly played, or new and emerging markets.”
As a respected designer and founder of Nicklaus Design, the ‘Golden Bear’ also voiced his opinions on what can be done to make improvements in areas such as cost, difficulty and time for current players.
“Fact is, more golf courses have closed in the US in each of the last ten years than have opened,” he said. “This is thanks in great part to changes in the golf ball and the distance it travels. Courses have had to change along with it. It’s now a slower game and more expensive than before, and that can’t be a good thing. We don’t want to change the game for the core golfer, but we need to make every effort to offer alternatives to bring more people into the game and keep them in the game. I think we need to develop a golf ball to suit the golf course, rather than build courses to suit a golf ball. Whether it’s a ball that goes 50 per cent, 75 per cent, or 100 per cent, you play a ball that fits the course and your game.”
Nicklaus explained that such a transition is not as big of a problem as some may fear, saying that: “We used to do it when travelling to play the Open and switching from the large ball to the small. It took us only a day to get used to a different ball. But when land is a dear commodity and water is scarce, you need to do something to respond to today’s situation. It’s the same in life and business.”
He added that designers and golf clubs should continue to look at changing formats.
“We’ve done twelve-hole events, and the feedback among women, beginners, juniors and seniors is that they loved it,” Nicklaus said. “If something as simple as that can bring people into the game and keep them, which is important, we have got to get serious about doing anything out of the box or unconventional.”